These are the times that try men's souls. The Sum-
mer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis,
shrink from the service of their country, but he that
stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and
woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered;
yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder
the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we
obtain too cheaply we esteem too lightly; it is dearness
only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how
to put a proper price upon its goods ; and it would be
strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom
shoud not be highly rated.
— Thomas Paine
Vietnam— the fourth year
march '68-february '69
a pictorial history of the
173d airborne brigade
1 It. thomas e. gardo, information officer
sp 5 adrian d. acevedo, editor
Prepared by the Public Information Office, 173d Airborne
Brigade, APO San Francisco 96250, as the fourth in a
series of authorized annual publications designed to relate
the activities of the Brigade. Opinions expressed herein are
not necessarily those of the Department of the Army.
Brigadier General John W. Barnes, Commander.
Command Sergeant Major John Bittorie, CSGM
LT John Emmert, Asst. Information Officer
LT Michael Davison, Press Officer
Photographers: SFC Arnold Fisher, SGT Thomas Faulkner,
SGT John McCulloch, SGT Boyer Westover, SP5 Ralph
Dixon, SP5 Frank Roberto, SP5 Roger Hester, SP5
William Bontemps, SP4 Jon Hosier, SP4 Larry Lebow,
SP4 Larry Gillis, SP4 Craig Lindaman, SP4 Jerry
Yamachika, SP4 Robert Parkhill, SP4 Rip Stringer,
SP4 Paul Sheehan, SP4 Jerry Born, SP4 Floyd
Richards, PFC John Donlon.
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
The brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping- ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.
— Theodore O'Hara
Mr * *
503d infantry 19
1st battalion (mech), 50th infantry 22
1st battalion, 69th armor 24
3d battalion, 319th artillery 26
troop e, 17th cavalry 28
company d, 16th armor 29
173d engineer company 30
company n, 75th infantry 31
173d signal company 32
39th scout dog platoon 33
headquarters and headquarters company 34
173d support battalion 35
the fourth year 41
the land and the people 61
the war 69
cordon and search 72
road security 74
airmobile operations 76
dust off 82
soldiers of god 84
fire support 85
combat support 92
the other war 94
civic action 95
the sky soldier 101
if t <"
brigadier general richard j. alien
-i «n. <.iwmm^KM
mmm-mm m i ■ i mm hi n ■ l uqwt i
General Allen assumed command of the 173d Airborne
Brigade on March 20, 1968, just 10 days prior to the
Brigade's move to Bong Son. His previous Vietnam assign-
ments had been as assistant division commander of the 1st
Infantry Division and then the 101st Airborne Division.
He enlisted in the Army in July of 1940 and advanced
to the rank of first sergeant before attending OCS and
receiving his commission in the infantry in 1942.
During World War II, he served with the 101st Air-
borne and participated in the invasion of Normandy, the
invasion of Holland and the Battle of Bastogne.
Among his decorations are the Silver Star, Bronze Star,
Legion of Merit, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
General Barnes assumed command of the 173d Airborne
Brigade on December 15, 1968. He came to the Brigade
from a post as Deputy Senior Advisor for the II Corps
He received his commission in the Corps of Engineers
after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West
Point in 1942. He also received a master's degree in
aeronautical engineering from the California Institute of
Technology in 1946.
During World War II, he served with the 51st Engi-
neers, which he helped to cadre and train in the U.S. prior
to its deployment in December, 1943 to the European
Among his decorations are the Legion of Merit, the
Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star and the Army Commenda-
brigadier general John w. barnes
■ J, * I
I- T«* EL >^* K
Fighting the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars
requires a highly mobile combat force, able to adapt to
an elusive enemy on his own grounds and conduct success-
ful operations on the coastal plains, rice paddies, dense
jungles and rugged mountains of Vietnam. The 173d
Airborne Brigade has proved to be just such a unit.
The Brigade was born as a result of the marriage be-
tween the 173d Infantry Brigade and the 2nd Airborne
Battle Group, 5$3d Infantry Combat Team on Okinawa
on June 25, 1963. It was designed as the U.S. Army's hard-
hitting, flexible strike force for the Pacific and the Far
For the next three years, the 173d trained hard on its
home island of Okinawa and throughout the Asian Theater.
Fxtensive airborne, guerilla and jungle warfare exercises
in the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea and Thailand, honed
the unit to the razor edge of combat readiness.
It was the admiring Chinese population on Taiwan,
where the Brigade underwent airborne training jvyj.th~.tlie
Nationalist Chinese Army, that gave the paratroopers the
name, "Tien Bing," or "Sky Soldiers." It stuck and has
since been made the unofficial nickname for the soldiers of
the 173d Airborne Brigade.
When the unit deployed to Vietnam in May, 1965 as
the first Army combat unit to arrive in country, it was
probably the most combat ready American unit ever to
enter an armed conflict.
Upon arrival, the Brigade defended and secured Bien
Hoa Air Base while conducting patrolling and clearing
operations in the northern Mekong Delta and War Zone D.
Ever since its first big action north of tjj'e Dong Nai River
where they trapped a main force VC Tegument and killed
""~ J f ! 8Q*Jhe 173d earned a reputation for itself as a reaction
force that, deployed to wherever the fighting was the
Two missions, however, stand out from all the rest. The
first oeeured during February 1967. when the 2nd Bat-
talion made the first combat jump in 15 years to spearhead
Operation Junction City. After the parachute assault deep
into War Zone C near the Cambodian border and a massive
helilift of the other battalions, the 173d swept its area of
responsibility, killing 266 enemy and destroying an im-
portant Viet Cong propaganda office.
The second was the capture of Hill 875 near Dak To
durihg the lar g e s^and most celebrated single battle of the
I^Ytter 20 continuous days of fighting around
Dak^To. Brigade elements locked horns with an entrenched
NY A regiment, and in the most bitter fighting of the war.
captured the hill on Thanksgiving Day, 1967. Over 800
enemy were killed during the battle.
It was also in November that the 173d"s rear elements
moved from Bien Hoa to An Khe, the Brigade's present
basecamp, in order to provide better support to the combat
troops which were all operating in II Corps.
For almost the first three years in Vietnam,, however, the
Brigade had been looking for a "home of its own", its own
TAOR (Tactical Area of Responsibility). This opportunity
came in March. 1968, when the 173d replaced elements of
the 4th Infantry division in the Bong Son area and began
Operation Cochise/Dan Sinh.
Also conducting Operation' Boiling II/Dan Hoa in the
Tuy Hoa area and Operation Walker around An Khe, the
Brigade assumed responsibility for the wealthy, heavily-
populated provinces of Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Phu Bon.
The 173d is still considered a reaction force, however,
as evidenced when the 4th Battalion was deployed to Ban
Me Thout in August to help stave off a threat from the 1st
NVA division. ****».
During its brief history, the 173d Airborne Brigade has
undoubtedly become, in the words of General W'illiam
Westmoreland, "one of the finest units in the history of the
American Fighting Man."
The 173d Airborne Brigade's four battalions of the
503d Infantry have inherited the traditions of the oldest
and one of the most famous parachute regiments in the
United States Army.
On March 2, 1942, three parachute battalions were
combined and redesignated as the 503d Parachute Infantry
Regiment and sent to Ft. Bragg, N.C., for training. The
2nd Battalion, however, was detached and transferred to
England. Later designated the 2nd Battalion, 509th In-
fantry, it made the first battalion-sized combat jump in the
In October, the 503d deployed to Australia for more
extensive training for combat operations in the Pacific
Theater. The 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry, was meanwhile
redesignated the 2nd Battalion, 503d Infantry and joined
the regiment in training in Australia.
In July 1943, the 503d moved to Port Moresby, New
Guinea, and on September 5, the regiment was air
assaulted over Markham Valley on New Guinea's north-
eastern coast to engage entrenched Japanese forces. This
was the first airborne operation of U.S. forces in the
Pacific. After two weeks of fighting, the Japanese were
defeated and the 503d was reassembled for the return to
The regiment's next jump was made by the 1st Battalion
on the thickly-jungled island of Noemfoor off the northern
coast of New Guinea in July. Shielded by a thick smoke
screen, some of the planes dropped their sticks at an alti-
tude of 175 feet for the lowest jump on record. The 3d
Battalion jumped on a semi-secured air strip the next day
to help the allies take the island in three weeks of vicious
The combat-hardened paratroopers were then ready to
make their renowned jump on the fortress island of
Corregidor in the Philippines. It was a near impossible
jump because of the island's small size, tricky winds, steep
sides and rugged terrain.
Thus, after weeks of naval and aerial bombardment, the
Japanese who were prepared for an amphibious assault,
were completely stunned when the 3d Battalion led the way
by jumping onto the island on the morning of February
It took the C-47 aircraft two hours in the 35 m.p.h.
wind to drop the battalion because the planes could only
drop eight men per stick on the small drop zones. Although
taken by surprise, the Japanese defenders resisted fiercely
to the last man and it took the Allies 11 days of continuous
fighting to capture the "Rock" and open Manila Bay.
On the third anniversary of the 503d as a regiment,
March 2, 1945, General Douglas MacArthur returned to
Corregidor and was presented control of the island by the
As a result of this brilliant action, the regiment was later
awarded the nickname of its most famous objective, "The
The 503d's final action of the war came in April when
it responded to a call for help from an infantry division
on the Philippine island of Negros. The island was secured
throughout that spring and summer and the surrender of
Japan found the 503d in full control of Negros. Soon
afterward, on December 24, 1945, the regiment was
During the Korean War, the 503d was reactivated and
assigned to the 11th Airborne Division. It did not see
combat, but instead trained in all parts of the United
States, including Alaska.
In 1956, the regiment moved to Germany with the 11th
Airborne, and in 1957 was reorganized under the battle
group concept. The 1st Airborne Battle Group, 503d
Infantry was still assigned to the 11th Airborne and the
2nd Airborne Battle Group, 503d Infantry was organized
at Ft. Bragg as part of the 82nd Airborne Division.
In May of 1960, the latter was moved to Okinawa to
become the Army's strike force in the Pacific, and with the
addition of support units, was redesignated the 2nd Air-
borne Battle Group, 503d Infantry Combat Team. On June
25, 1963, it was reorganized again and became the 173d
Airborne Brigade, with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the
These two battalions, which moved with the 173d to
Vietnam in May of 1965, have both been awarded the
Presidential Unit Citation for combat actions in Viet-
nam. The 2nd Battalion conducted the only American
combat jump of the Vietnam War in February of 1967.
The 4th Battalion joined the Brigade in June 1966 and
quickly proved to be as effective a fighting unit as her
sister battalions. The 3d Battalion sailed from San Fran-
cisco in October 1967 and immediately assumed control of
Operation Boiling near Tuy Hoa when the other three
battalions moved to Dak To.
1 st battalion (mechanized), 50th infantry
The present unit was originally constituted as the 50th
Infantry Regiment on May 15, 1917 and served with dis-
tinction in both World Wars. They were reactivated in
1967 and trained for combat duty in Vietnam in Septem-
ber of that year and began conducting operations on the
coastal plains of Binh Dinh Province while attached to
the 1st Cavalry Division. The unit was then attached to the
173d when it assumed control of Binh Dinh Province in
With its tremendous firepower, it has proved to be an
extremely versatile unit, combining the shock power of
armor with the mobility of the infantry. When mounted on
their armored personnel carriers, the mechanized infantry-
men are capable of reconnaissance-in-force, cordon and
search, road security, and search and clear missions. When
dismounted, the unit can also conduct heliborne assaults
into terrain too difficult for tracked vehicles and perform
as a regular infantry outfit.
1 st battalion,
The heavily armed unit came under the operational con-
trol of the Brigade when the 173d moved into the Bong
Son area in April 1968.
It was originally activated as the 69th Armor Regiment
in July 1940 at Ft. Knox, Ky. and assigned to the 1st
Armored Division. In September, 1943, the structure of
the regiment was changed and the 3d Battalion was
redesignated the 708th Amphibian Tractor Battalion and
sent to the Pacific Theater. It fought in three campaigns
during the war and received two Navy Presidential Unit
In Korea, the unit earned another citation when it was
redesignated the 89th Medium Tank Battalion and spear-
headed operations for 8th Army units. It was redesignated
the 1st Battalion, 69th Armor in July 1963 in Hawaii,
where it began preparations for deployment to Vietnam in
The battalion arrived in January 1966 and immediately
began to prove the effectiveness of armor in a guerilla war.
It is presently used in road security, blocking, cordon and
search, and reconnaissance-in-force missions.
3d battalion, 319th artillery
The unit was organized in August, 1917, at Camp
Gordon, Ga., as Battery C, 319th Field Artillery Regiment.
The battery served with distinction in the 82nd Infantry
Division during World War I and was awarded battle
streamers for Lorraine, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne.
After the war, the battalion's colors were cased until
March 1942 when the 319th was reactivated at Camp
Clairborne, La., again as part of the 82nd Infantry. When
the division was converted to an airborne unit in August,
1942, the 319th also made the changeover, being re-
designated as the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion.
After training in North Africa, Battery C participated
in the Sicilian invasion and was awarded its first Dis-
tinguished Unit Citation for its outstanding achievements
in the face of bitter enemy attacks. The battery's second
citation was earned during the Normandy Beach invasion
when it fired thousands of shells to secure the Douve and
Mereret Rivers. More battle streamers were added to its
colors when the 319th glided into Holland in September,
1944, and supported the 82nd Airborne in the Battle of
the Bulge in December..
In April, 1959, Battery C, 319th Airborne Artillery set
the record for the Army on entering "Fire for Effect" after
a heavy drop. The cannoneers derigged and assembled
their equipment, set up the Fire Direction Center, estab-
lished communications and went into "Fire for Effect"
after adjusting on a target of opportunity within 14
minutes and 50 seconds after the last man left the aircraft.
In June 1960, Battery C accompanied the 2nd Airborne
Battle Group, 503d Infantry to Okinawa. When the 173d
Airborne Brigade was organized three years later in June
1963, the battery formed the nucleus of the present 3d
Battalion, 319th Artillery.
troop e, 1 7th cavalry
The 17th Cavalry was organized at Ft. Bliss^ Texas in
1916 as a horse cavalry regiment armed with sabers, pistols
and carbines. It did not see combat in either World War,
however, and in 1951, the Headquarter Troop was com-
bined with the 17th Armored Group and redesignated as
Headquarters Troop, 17th Armored Cavalry Group. The
17th Armored Group fought with distinction during World
War II in northern France and Central Europe.
The remaining troops of the regiment were disbanded
at that time, but Troop E was reconstituted in May of
1959. It joined the 173d Airborne Brigade on Okinawa
in 1963 as the only separate airborne cavalry troop in the
Unlike the normal armored cavalry unit, the troop uses
jeeps mounted with .50 cal. machine guns and 106mm
recoiless rifles instead of tracked vehicles. With its
mobility and firepower, the Cav can serve as a security,
blocking, or reconnaissance and surveillance force when
attached to another unit. When operating separately, the
troop runs road-clearing operations, escorts convoys and
conducts mounted and dismounted reconnaissance mis-
The troop is also used extensively as a ready reaction
force for the Brigade, capable of heliborne assaulting into
a hot spot on a moments notice. Occasionally, the unit
deploys as a separate infantry force for reconnaissance-
in-force, raid or ambush purposes.
Troop E has always lived up to its motto, "Ahead of
the Best." Ever since the Brigade moved to Vietnam, the
unit has spearheaded new operations and preceded the
173d on its frequent moves to new areas of operation.
The troop was awarded the Valorous Unit Citation for
actions during Operation Cedar Falls in January, 1967.
i fjr ■*•-■••
J Iff' Y
company d, 1 6th armor
A direct descendant of the 16th Cavalry Regiment which
was organized in 1916, Company D is unique in that it is
the only airborne separate tank company in the Army. It
was reactivated in June 1963 and assigned to the Brigade
Mounted in their armored personnel carriers, which
they operate in lieu of their authorized Sheridan tanks,
the airborne armormen are capable of everything from
fire base security to reconnaissance-in-force missions and
Based in the Tuy Hoa area, they have been used mainly
for securing the air base and escorting convoys. On a
combat operation, they can sweep an area twice as fast as
an infantry battalion when the terrain is right. The rice
paddies and rolling hills in the highlands around Tuy Hoa
are perfect for their tracks. The occasional thick brush
presents no problem either as the vehicles can knock down
trees up to ten inches in diameter.
Each personnel carrier is armed with a .50 caliber
machine gun, two M-60 machine guns, and a rocket
launcher. In addition, three of them carry 90mm recoiless
rifles, making the company a formidable force which the
enemy tries to avoid.
1 73d engineer company
The company was constituted on March 26, 1963, and
activated with the Brigade in June on Okinawa. Since then,
the company has provided the 173d with unexcelled
engineer support from Bien Hoa to Dak To. It was
awarded the Itschner Plaque as the most outstanding
engineer unit in the entire Army during 1967 and the
2nd Platoon has been awarded the Presidential Unit Cita-
tion for actions from 1965 to 1967.
As combat engineers, they are capable of deploying
with the infantry to cut landing zones, destroy enemy
bunkers and explode booby-traps and mines. In addition,
the engineers have the task of developing the forward base
camp and constructing fire support bases. They produce
tons of potable water daily at their four water purification
points, construct bridges, repair roads, conduct mine-
sweeps and engage in civic action projects.
The engineer work is never completed, as the company
must support five manuever battalions, an armor company
and a cavalry troop, instead of the three battalions it was
originally designed to support. Yet the paratroopers of
the unit have worked long and hard to make it one of the
best engineer outfits in the Army during its brief history.
company n (airborne ranger), 75th infantry
Prior to December 1967, the "eyes and ears" of the
Brigade, more commonly known as LRPs (pronounced
"Lurps"), existed as a platoon of Troop E, 17th Cavalry.
At that time they became the 74th Infantry Detachment
(Long Range Patrol), but in February 1969, they were
again redesignated as Company N (Airborne Ranger) 75th
Their main mission being to report on the location and
activities of enemy forces, the LRP's follow in the tradi-
tion of the scouting parties down through the ages. They
have refined the technique of using a small, self-sufficient
mobile group of highly trained individuals. Added to the
idea have been modern communication methods and heli-
copters, infiltration and extraction training.
The majority of LRP mission are for reconnaissance
purposes, but the elite unit has enemy kills to its credit
far out of proportion to its size. On some operations
they have a secondary mission of capturing prisoners or
ambushing a well-used trail. They are also capable of
conducting large-scale combat patrols for raid or recon-
The 74th Infantry was the first American unit to train
South Vietnamese soldiers in LRP tactics and techniques.
Each team is composed of American and Vietnamese mem-
bers and both sides have been quick to praise the success
of the idea.
k. j 'i
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1 73d signal company
In August 1967, the 723d Forward Area Signal Platoon
arrived in Vietnam from Fort Riley, Kan. and combined
with the communications platoon of Brigade headquarters
to form the 173d Signal Company.
The unit, which handles the communications chores
within the Brigade headquarters and between its far flung
units, is divided into two platoons — one consisting of wire-
men and switchboard operators and the other of radio
The wire or Command Operations platoon runs the
Brigade tactical and administrative switchboards, lays,
installs and repairs telephones and lines, and mans the
operational Communications Center.
It would be impossible to keep telephone lines intact to
the 173d's units through enemy territory; therefore, the
radio platoon uses VHF (Very High Frequency) "shots"
to relay phone calls through the atmosphere. The radiomen
have also attached radios to a large helium balloon to
increase the radio range many times over;
One thing the airborne signalmen take great pride in is
their ability to break down, move and set up their commo
quickly. When the Brigade headquarters moved to Bong
Song, it took them a remarkable 82 hours.
The company's most appreciated task, however, is the
operation of the MARS (Military Affiliate Radio System)
station, whose high-powered radio transmitter enables
173d paratroopers to talk with family and friends back
in the United States via the telephone.
39th scout dog platoon
Although it is one of the smallest units in the Brigade,
the 39th Scout Dog Platoon is no doubt one of the most
effective at finding the enemy. The unit is composed of
both scout dogs, their handlers and the 75th Infantry
Detachment (Combat Tracker).
The platoon, with its 24 German shepherds, joined the
Brigade in August, 1966 at Bien Hoa. A scout dog and
his handler are attached to an individual infantry company
when they are needed and have been extremely useful at
uncovering enemy ambushes, booby-traps and caches.
The 75th Infantry was attached to the 173d in October,
1967, and then assigned to the 39th in February, 1968.
The unit has two teams consisting of a Labrador retriever
and five men who have had seven weeks of intensive field
training in Malaysia. Their primary mission is to reestab-
lish contact with «the enemy after a firelight.
Using both their own knowledge of the enemy and the
dog's sense of smell, the teams can determine the number
and sex of their quarry and whether they are NVA or Viet
Cong. They can also often determine the enemy's morale,
discipline and weapons.
Both the scout dogs and the combat trackers have proven
their worth in Vietnam. Their highest compliments have
been found in captured enemy documents which warn the
Viet Cong and NVA to keep clear of the American dogs.
headquarters and headquarters company
Organized from the 173d Infantry Regiment of the 87th
Infantry Division which saw action in Europe during
World War II, the company is comprised of the personnel
essential to the Brigade Commander for command and
control of a complex fighting force.
Within the unit organization are located the staff officers
and sections which advise the commander within their area
of responsibility. Among them are: the S-l through S-5,
Information, Chemical and Signal Officers and the Brigade
Surgeon, Provost Marshal, Chaplain, and Engineer.
A number of units are attached to Headquarters Com-
pany to assist the staff sections in carrying out their duties,
including the 24th Military History Detachment, 46th
Public Information Detachment, 172nd Military Intel-
ligence Detachment, 51st Chemical Detachment, 404th
Radio Research Unit, 628th Military Intelligence Detach-
ment, U.S. Air Force Control Party, and American and
Vietnamese military liaison personnel.
In addition the aviation and the MP platoons fall under
the control of Headquarters Company.
HIGH WW I
The only separate aviation platoon in the Army, Casper
was organized with the Brigade on Okinawa in 1963 and
arrived in country in May 1965. Since that time it has
flown almost every type of heliborne mission — including
resupply, dust off, "Snoopy," visual reconnaissance, com-
mand and control, and combat assault.
Its main responsibility is to provide UH-1D "Huey-
slicks" as command and control ships for the Brigade's
commanders and OH-6 "Loaches" for reconnaissance and
The dedication and esprit d'corps of the Caspers is
widely known and is shown by their extension rate, which
is the highest in the Brigade.
173d military police platoon
The Brigade MP's arrived in country with the advance
party of the 173d in 1965 and immediately began per-
forming many duties in addition to directing traffic and
They were often called upon to serve as infantrymen
with line companies and many manned M-60's as door
gunners which were sorely needed on helicopter gunships.
In 1966 they were called upon to provide guards for inter-
rogation and Civil Affairs teams, control refugees and
conduct reconnaissance of roads and bridges. They also
acted as security for fire support bases and for engineers
who were busy with construction.
In 1967, they made the combat jump with the 2nd Bat-
talion and once on the ground, established PW compounds,
secured engineer work parties and once again served in
an infantry capacity. At Dak To, the airborne policemen
provided mobile fire power for supply convoys and secured
the roads and airstrip.
The 173d MP's, scattered throughout the Brigade's areas
of operation, presently patrol the roads, towns and vil-
lages, man perimeter gates and traffic control points, main-
tain detainee compounds, provide ready reaction forces
and keep internal law and order by rigidly enforcing
regulations and policies.
1 73d support battalion
Formed along with the Brigade on Okinawa, the four
primary companies of the battalion provide administra-
tive, medical, logistical and maintenance support for the
173d's combat troopers.
Every large organization must, out of necessity, handle
vast amounts of paperwork to smooth the continuous flow
of personnel. In the Brigade, this task belongs to the para-
troopers of Company A (Administration). The men of the
Adjutant General's Office are responsible for orders, pro-
motions, re-enlistments, transfers, records, awards and
decorations, and special services.
Pay is an important matter for every soldier in the
Brigade and the clerks in the Finance Office work long,
tedious hours to insure that all Sky Soldiers are paid in
full and on time. In addition, a pay team is sent once a
week to the forward areas to straighten up financial com-
plications for the combat troops.
Mail is probably foremost in the minds of every man
in the 173d, and the 45th Army Postal Unit, attached to
Company A, does everything possible to get the mail to
the troops as quickly as possible. In addition, A Admin's
Replacement Detachment processes all paratroopers on
arrival, R&R and DEROS.
The primary mission of Company B (Medical) is to
provide emergency medical treatment for the men of the
Brigade. A dust off chopper is always minutes away from
take-off and the four doctors and the medics of the com-
pany are always prepared for any emergency. In addition,
they provide daily sick call for all personnel stationed at
the Brigade's forward command post. They also treat
ARVN soldiers and Vietnamese civilians when no other
facilities are available and pull MEDCAP's in the Bong
B Med's one dentist is capable of providing the best of
dental care and treatment, including routine and restora-
tive surgery. The company also maintains a small phar-
macy, a diagnostic laboratory, and X-ray facilities.
The infantry troops of the Brigade could not begin to
fight without the supply line which begins at the battalion
fire support base and ends back in the states. Company C
(Supply and Service) is charged with keeping this vital
supply line flowing smoothly.
The "Airborne Express" two-and-a-half-ton trucks of the
transportation platoon haul supplies to the 173d's widely
scattered units while the men of the supply platoon main-
tain stockpiles in the forward areas to fill the units' daily
needs. The riggers of the air equipment support platoon,
besides continuously repacking parachutes to keep the
Brigade capable of making a combat jump at any time,
also work with each manuever battalion on Air Delivery
Teams that rig sling loads for helicopters to resupply
troops in the field.
The dust, mud and humidity of Vietnam exact a heavy
toll on all the vehicles, equipment and machinery the
Brigade uses. It is up to Companv D (Maintenance) to
keep all these items functioning properly.
The skilled technicians and repairmen of the unit are
required to perform third echelon maintenance on every-
thing from helicopters to howitzers. In addition, D Main-
tenance is capable of prefabricating many repair parts
and maintains the Brigade Maintenance Office, which
stocks parts for every piece of equipment in the Brigade.
Special maintenance teams from the company also accom-
pany convoys in case of a vehicle breakdown.
Hundreds of replacements arrive at the Brigade's base-
camp at An Khe each month with the knowledge that their
Army training days are over. They soon learn, however,
that knowledge can save lives in Vietnam and the 173d
Jungle School was designed to give them that knowledge.
Mandatory for all enlisted men and company grade
officers, the week-long course consists of lessons learned
the hard way by the paratroopers of the Brigade and
taught by the combat veterans themselves.
The school covers, often very realistically, everything
the newcomer wants and needs to know — the ways of the
Brigade, the war, the country and the enemy. Included are
classes on tactics, first aid, American and enemy weapons,
characteristics and habits of the enemy, booby-traps and
mines, dustoff procedures, the Vietnamese people and
customs, and the history of the Brigade.
To complete the course, the class goes on an overnight
field problem outside the basecamp perimeter. On occa-
sion, the Jungle School company has made contact with the
enemy and has received credit for VC kills, caches dis-
covered and weapons captured.
To maintain its airborne capability, the Brigade also
began a Jumpmaster School under the supervision of the
Support Battalion at An Khe. Taught by riggers from
Company C (S & S) and other jumpmasters from the
Brigade's units, it consists of a refresher course for already
qualified personnel and a complete course to train new
In addition to training Americans, the Brigade has
undertaken the task of teaching Vietnamese military per-
sonnel U.S. tactics and techniques. Advisory teams work
with RF/PF (Regional Forces/Popular Forces) units in
the area to improve their efficiency and make them a
better fighting force.
The 173d has also established a very successful course
for RF/PF officers and NCO's at An Khe. Dubbed the
RF/PF Leadership School, it gives them classes in
weapons, patrolling, ambushes, leadership, and enemy
tactics and capabilities.
The effectiveness of the training has been shown by the
increased confidence and fighting ability of the RF/PF.
In one significant action, a PF unit killed 28 and captured
one of a 30-man VC force which attacked their hamlet.
The 74th Infantry Detachment (LRP) also has trained
ARVN soldiers in long range patrol techniques. The
ARVN's were assigned to each team and their American
team leaders have praised their performance in the field.
They have returned to their units to form their own LRP
The beginning of the Brigade's fourth year in Vietnam
found the 173d conducting three major operations in the
II Corps Tactical Zone.
The 4th Battalion and Company D, 16th Armor were
responsible for protecting the rice harvest of the rich
coastal plains near Tuy Hoa in Operation Boiling/Dan
Hoa. The 2nd Battalion was charged with securing the
Brigade basecamp at An Khe and protecting Highway 19,
the main communications route from the Qui Nhon docks
to the Central Highlands, from An Khe pass to Mang Yang
pass in Operation Walker.
The Brigade Forward Command Post and the rest of the
173d was in the Central Highlands near Kontum, conduct-
ing reconnaissance-in-force missions under the operational
control of the 4th Infantry Division in Operation MacAr-
The first big enemy contact came on March 4 when Com-
pany D, 16th Armor and units of the 47th ARVN Regiment
tangled with a two-battalion VC/NVA force. The airborne
armormen had been called to the rescue when the enemy
attacked the 47th's headquarters north of Tuy Hoa City
from three well-fortified villages to the east.
One platoon from D/16th deployed in full defilade as
a blocking force between the enemy and the ocean to the
east while the ARVN's blocked from the south and west.
The remaining two platoons of armored personnel carriers,
backed by ARVN infantrymen and supported by gunships
and fighter-bombers, began assaulting the villages from
The paratroopers quickly smashed through fierce enemy
resistance to clear the first two villages. As the attack con-
tinued into the third village, the fighting became especially
vicious as the APC's approached the enemy CP and the
ARVN infantry withdrew.
After several of the tracks took direct hits from B-40
rockets and recoiless rifles, the lack of supporting infantry
and the rapidly approaching darkness forced the armormen
to withdraw. But they still managed to recover their
wounded and destroy all damaged equipment.
Over 200 enemy were killed during the seven-hour bat-
tle, 137 of them credited to Company D. Korean and
Vietnamese units completed the mop-up of the battlefield
the next day.
During March in Operation MacArthur, the 1st and 3d
Battalions made contact almost daily with the numerous
NVA units in the Kontum area while E/17th Cavalry
patrolled the highway to Pleiku.
On March 6, the Cav moved to the aid of a convoy which
had been ambushed by an estimated NVA company. With
support from B Company, l/69th Armor, E Troop killed
four enemy and captured two more. When the unit swept
the contact area the next day with armor and infantry in
support, the action resulted in 17 more NVA killed.
In three separate actions during the month, Charlie Com-
pany of the 1st Battalion got 18 enemy kills by body count
and a possible 15 more. They also discovered a tunnel
complex which contained 35 enemy killed by air strikes.
Two other noteworthy events happened during March.
The first occurred when Brigadier General Richard J.
Allen assumed command of the Brigade oh March 20,
replacing Brigadier General Leo H. Schweiter. The other
was thel73d's move to the Bong Son area and the assump-
tion of responsibility for Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Phu
Bon Provinces. The l/50th and the 1 /69th 'joined the Bri-
gade at this time and the 2nd Battalion also moved to Bong
Son while the l/503d took over Operation Walker around
Action picked up in Operation Walker during April
with the largest contact of the operation on the 10th. The
l/503d and the l/69th were put on alert when intelligence
reports indicated Highway 19 would be ambushed by a
battalion of the 95B NVA Regiment.
The action started when a mine-sweep team discovered
* 4 M#'
and started to disarm a I05mm howitzer round in the
middle of the highway. The NVA triggered the round and
then prematurely sprang their ambush. Reaction forces
from A Company, l/69th and A Company, l/503d imme-
diately swept the area and encountered numerous groups
of NVA trying to escape to the north. With supporting
artillery, gunships and fighter-bombers, the tankers killed
46 enemy and captured another four.
When Operation Cochise/Dan Sinh began on March 30,
the Brigade faced a twin challenge: to rid the heavilv-
jungled mountain areas of the NVA main-force units which
were based there, and then to destroy the Viet Cong cadre
and infrastucture in the rich, rice-producing lowlands.
Paratroopers of the 2nd and 3d Battalions began comb-
ing the Tiger and Nui Mieu Mountains looking for the
enemy while the l/50th swept the coastal plains and val-
leys. Contact was light throughout April as the enemy
avoided the 173d, but numerous caches and basecamps
Charlie Company of the 2nd Battalion discovered a VC
hospital and captured six enemy on the 5th and Alpha
Company discovered a former basecamp of the 3d NVA
Division on the 18th. Among the articles found in the camp
were a large printing press and propaganda leaflets in
Korean and Vietnamese.
Long range patrols ranged far and wide searching for
the enemy, calling artillery in on them when they were
found. The 1 /50th piled up rice caches almost daily, some
as large as seven tons.
It was obvious that the enemy had broken down into
small units and was avoiding contact until he could choose
the time and the place. On May 4 they were ready and
with their objectives as LZ Uplift and the Phu My District
Headquarters, the 22nd NVA Regiment began moving
down from its mountain hideouts.
But they had not counted on the increasingly dependable
173d intelligence network. Just the day before the move,
the 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry was moved to positions
between the enemy units and their objectives.
On the afternoon of May 5, the battle was initiated when
two battalions of the 22nd NVA Regiment attacked the
noon defensive position of Alpha Company, l/50th in
Crescent Valley just off Highway 1.
The vicious B-40 rocket, recoiless rifle, and automatic
weapons attack caught the Americans off-balance and
within five minutes, five of the nine APC's were put out of
action. But the mechanized infantrymen maintained their
calm, and while the still-functioning tracks disengaged to
regroup, the dismounted soldiers scattered behind the rice
paddy dikes and began returning fire.
Meanwhile, Charlie, l/50th and Bravo, l/69th had
been alerted and were lead to the battle area by Alpha's
returning APC's. With the tankers in the lead, the relief
forces stormed into the battle supported by naval fire,
artillery, gunships and air strikes.
The fighting ebbed at dusk and the Americans pulled
back into a night defensive position. Before dawn however,
they came under a heavy mortar, rocket and ground assault,
and sporadic to heavy contact continued through the next
day and a half as reinforcements from the 2nd and 3d
Battalions were airlifted into the area.
The enemy had broken down into small units and fled.
But sweeps through the contact area revealed 176 NVA
bodies and the actual death toll was considered to be much
higher than the body count indicated.
A senior enlisted man in the North Vietnamese Army
who turned himself in under the Chieu Hoi Program after
the battle, said that the two enemy battalions were almost
Also on May 5, Bravo Company, 3/503d killed 13 VC
and captured 11 weapons in a well-executed, early morning
ambush. Later that morning, Alpha Company, 2/503d dis-
covered blood trails from Bravo's ambush and traced them
to the ocean. The VC were visible off-shore in fishing boats
confiscated from civilians, so gunships were called in and
killed 11 more. An hour later, Alpha engaged still another
VC force, killing five and detaining 37.
The action remained light in Cochise until the 11th, when
the l/50th again tangled with an NVA main-force unit.
Bravo and Charlie Companies, while on a reconnaissance-
in-force mission to the north, were attacked by an estimated
battalion employing automatic weapons and B-40 rockets.
Reinforced by elements of the l/69th Armor, artillery
and gunships, the mechanized infantrymen battled the
enemy for two hours before withdrawing to make room for
air strikes. A sweep of the area turned up 60 enemy bodies
and 46 more were found two days later, killed as a result
of air strikes.
The day before, Bravo Company, 3/503d had killed 10
NVA in a three-hour firefight, and the 3d Battalion con-
tinued to keep the pressure on the enemy during the next
few days. They killed 14 in two ambushes, captured four
tons of rice, detained 21 suspects and uncovered a large
Contact remained light but constant from the 14th to
the 24th, indicating the enemy was attempting to withdraw
and regroup. But the action flared again on the 25th when
Bravo Company, l/50th made its last contact of the month
with elements of a fleeing NVA battalion.
The 33 enemy that were killed all had brand-new equi-
ment and were believed to be replacements for the 3d NVA
Division. There was no doubt that the 173d had completely
disrupted the division's activities.
The month closed quietly with Delta Company, 2/503d
finding three more tons of rice, which brought the two-
month total for the operation to well over a hundred tons.
The rice was redistributed to needy families.
Operations Boiling and Walker remained quiet during
May, except for one firefight in which Charlie Company,
l/503d accounted for 20 enemy kills. This same relative
quiet was to prevail throughout the the 173d areas of oper-
tion for the three summer months.
It became obvious early in June that the 3d NVA Divi-
sion had pulled out of the area to receive replacements,
reequip, retrain and recover from the beating inflicted by
the Brigade. It left behind small units to aid the local VC
in sniping, booby-trap and mining operations and terrorist
It proved to be a summer of long hours and sporadic
action for the Sky Soldiers — one of the slowest fighting
periods since the 173d arrived in country. But the Brigade
was not alone in being unable to battle the enemy, as NVA
and VC main-force units took advantage of a bombing lull
over North Vietnam to regroup.
With contact being made with only squad-sized units,
the biggest action during June and July was initiated by
LRP team Delta of the 74th Infantry. It resulted in four
VC killed by body count and a possible six more.
The Brigade concentrated on keeping the enemy rem-
nants and local VC disorganized and on the run through
reconnaissance-in-force operations and harassment and
interdiction artillery fire. Search and clear operations
were aimed at finding the enemy's basecamps and destroy-
ing them to prevent their further use.
In a series of giant cave complexes deep in the Suoi Ca
Mountains, mechanized infantrymen from the l/50th found
the most exciting cache of the operation. A platoon from
Bravo Company, who had left their APC's a week earlier
to search the rugged mountains on foot, discovered
$150,000 in U.S. 50-dollar bills in one of the caves. Saigon
officials termed it the "largest money hoard of the war".
In mid-June, the 3d Battalion moved 250 miles south to
Bao Loc and became the major manuever element in Task
Force South. A bold, new concept, it was a joint command
in which Americans, instead of acting as advisors, conduct
combined operations. The 3d Battalion has remained there
until the present date.
The 4th Battalion also moved in August, from its rela-
tively calm AO Dan Hoa to Ban Me Thout near the Cam-
bodian border to assist the 4th Infantry Division. During
a month of contact, the paratroopers made forays into ter-
ritory which had never been entered by American troops.
The "Geronimo" Battalion accounted for 51 confirmed
enemy dead and captured large weapons and ammunition
caches during four firefights in the beleagured Due Lap
The unit returned to Tuy Hoa in the middle of October
and resumed Operation Dan Hoa, in which the 95th NVA
Regiment was still regrouping and avoiding contact.
Still another move came in August when the l/50th,
which had swept the coastal plains near Bong Son and Phu
My for nearly a year, exchanged places with the An Khe-
The biggest single contact for the 173d during the month
was made by the 3d Battalion in a defensive action. Mor-
tarmen and infantrymen from Echo and Alpha Companies,
aided by dusters and howitzers firing at point blank range,
repulsed a vicious enemy assault. The estimated NVA
battalion left 45 bodies strewn around the mini-base near
With the NVA main-force elements virtually routed
from AO Dan Sinh and the local VC units on the run, the
Brigade prepared to root out and destroy the Viet Cong
infrastructure in the villages and hamlets of the Bong Son
In conjunction with the 40th ARVN Regiment, the 173d
began Operation Dan Sinh 22-6 on the 22nd of August.
The first phase was a search and clear operation designed
to sweep the entire Bong Son Plains. Rome plows were
used to clear the hedgerows and trench systems and to
destroy the tunnels and caves which characterize the entire
area. This was done first to deny their use to the Viet Cong
for storage of personnel and supplies.
The next phase, which began in early September and
lasted until late October, was the detailed interrogation
and complete reclassification of civilians living in the Bong
Son Plains area. With the aid of the 202nd National Police
Field Force Company, which made it possible to screen a
large number of people quickly and efficiently, the allies
checked almost 13,000 people.
The technique used was to air assault a rifle company
to surround a village early in the morning or to cordon it
just before dusk the day prior to the search. Two or three
armored vehicles were usually used as a blocking force.
Then the village would be searched and the inhabitants
checked for identification cards.
Contact with numerous three to five-man Viet Cong units
was made during the six-battalion operation and resulted
in a total of 237 Viet Cong killed. In addition, 122 con-
firmed and 115 suspected Viet Cong were detained, and 63
small arms and eight crew-served weapons were captured.
All this was accomplished at a minimum loss to allied
While this operation was being conducted successfully,
elements of the 18th NVA Regiment, the stay-behind force
of the 3d NVA Division, made an attempt to return to the
On September 22, elements of the 41st ARVN Regiment
made the initial contact with the enemy in the Suoi Ca
Mountains and the l/503d was air lifted in the next day
to try to encircle the enemy. The l/69th Armor moved in
from the west up the Suoi Ca Valley to establish blocking
After the initial contact by Delta Company, l/503d, the
mission changed to reconnaissance-in-force as the enemy
began withdrawing and it was no longer possible to encircle
them. Reconnaissance ships from D Troop, 2/lst Cavalry
were responsible for sighting the enemy locations that
resulted in major contact and Charlie Company, l/503d,
carried the brunt of the action. The North Vietnamese
suffered 197 dead in the week-long battle before they fled
back into the mountains.
In mid-September, intelligence sources indicated ele-
ments of the 95B Regiment were again becoming active in
AO Walker and were planning an attack on Camp RadcliPf.
Consequently, Task Force Schnoor was formed to halt the
enemy build up in southern Binh Dinh and northern Phu
The contact was light during the 12-day operation, but
its mission was accomplished successfully. The enemy were
dispersed before they had a chance to even move close
to the An Khe area.
The beginning of the next month saw the 2nd Battalion
taking part in operations rarely conducted by paratroop-
ers — amphibious assaults. Supported by Naval destroyers,
the Sky Soldiers splashed ashore from the South China
Sea in landings reminiscent of World War II Pacific opera-
tions. Numerous suspects were detained in VC villages on
the coast as the element of surprise worked against the
enemy just as it was intended to.
Elsewhere in Operation Dan Sinh, long range patrols
continued to harass the remaining VC elements, calling in
artillery on their basecamps, intercepting couriers and
ambushing their trails. One enemy haven was discovered
near the I Corps border, where the pinpoint accuracy of
the 3/319th Artillery had killed 35.
* m¥< wmw * .m* wmi
In late October, Alpha Company, 3 /503d uncovered an
immense Viet Cong jungle hospital in southern II Corps.
M \CV medical authorities termed it the most sophisticated
enemy hospital complex find of the war. Bravo 3/503d
also pushed an NVA rear-guard unit out of its basecamp
near Dalat, killing 10 in the process.
The month of November and December saw old patterns
repeated as the enemy continued to avoid contact with the
Brigade. Whenever intelligence reports indicated an enemy
build-up, they would fade away alter little or no contact
when friendly forces entered the area.
Since the enemy had decided to go back to his old game
of breaking down and operating in small units, the 173d
followed suit. Squad-sized Hunter-Killer or Hawk teams
were organized in the line companies and began ambush-
ing infiltration routes and well-used trails.
These Hawk teams and LRP patrols accounted for most
of the 81 enemy kills credited to the Brigade in AO Dan
Sinh during November. Paratroopers continued combing
the Tiger, Nui Mieu, Vinh Thanh and Suoi Ca Mountains,
turning up numerous caches and basecamps.
Activity in AO Walker increased in December with two
large enemy build-ups, but neither yielded much contact
when friendly forces entered the area. The 4th Battalion,
which made the move to An Khe from Tuy Hoa at the end
of November to counter another threat from the 95B NVA
Regiment, made the biggest find — a large medical and
food cache. The 2nd Battalion also moved to An Khe in
December, but returned to Bong Son a month later after
little significant contact.
December also saw Brigadier General Richard J. Allen,
after a very successful nine months with the Brigade,
hand the 173d colors to Brigadier General John W. Barnes.
Diligence paid off for the continously searching para-
troopers in January as they uncovered two of the largest
enemy caches ever found by the Brigade. The 4th Battalion
turned up another medical cache — 300 Pounds of surgical
instruments, drugs, plasma, bandages and a microscope —
the biggest of its kind in 173d history.
A week later, a Hawk team from the 2nd Battalion
found the biggest weapons cache of the operation in Binh
Dinh Province; it included a recoiless rifle, a mortar,
rounds for both, grenades, mines, small arms and ammuni-
Alpha Company, l/50th and D/16th Armor both saw
relatively heavy fighting during the month as action in-
creased slightly in Dan Hoa and Walker. Alpha killed 21
NVA in several separate contacts during the first three
weeks of January as the enemy tried unsuccessfully to
sever Highway 19.
Thirteen more were killed by D/16th when the armored
unit combined with elements of the 47th ARVN Regiment
in a unique night operation on the 15th. Two weeks later
the airborne armormen were called upon to rescue a
beleagured RF unit north of Tuy Hoa. Twenty enemy
bodies were counted after the APC's had routed the esti-
mated NVA company.
On the last day of the month, Operations Cochise/Dan
Sinh, Boiling/Dan Hoa and Walker were terminated and
Operations Dung Cam/Lee, Li Do/Wainwright, and Sue
Manh/Marshall were instituted in their places. A total of
929 enemy were killed during Cochise, while 705 were
killed in Boiling and 272 in Walker.
In addition, the end of the operations saw the enemy
thwarted in any large scale missions and limited only to
hit-and-run tactics. The Brigade had chased the main-force
units out of the AO's or else forced them to break down
into small units and hide. The local VC also felt the
pressure as Hawk teams ambushed their trails and inter-
cepted their couriers, while combined ARVN-U.S. opera-
tions continued to destroy the communist infrastructure in
While LRP teams watched infiltration routes for the
possible return of the main-force units, infantrymen con-
tinued to uncover the enemy's basecamps and cashes. As
a result, intelligence reports indicated the enemy's morale
was extremely low from hunger, sickness and the defeats
inflicted by the Brigade.
In February, two tactical concepts began to pay off for
the Brigade as over 280 enemy were killed by the Sky
Soldiers, almost quadrupling the monthly average for the
Hawk operations, of which almost 4,000 had been con-
ducted since their iniation in November, still continued to
account for the great majority of the Brigade's kills. The
1st and 2nd Battalions, 503d Infantry and the 74th In-
fantry LRP's, operating exclusively in Hawk teams, ranged
far and wide in AO Lee. Penetrating even into the enemy's
most inaccessible strongholds, they were so successful at
disrupting the enemy's activities that the expected Tet
offensive did not materialize in Binh Dinh Province.
In addition, the Brigade began keeping a platoon
reaction force standing by at a chopper pad so as to be
able to react immediately to intelligence and visual recon-
naissance reports before the enemy could leave the area.
Dubbed "Sky Sweep", the mission was usually supported
by slicks, Loaches and Cobras from Delta Troop, 2/lst
The month's most successful Sky Sweep came on the
14th when a Casper Loach killed five Viet Cong on an
island off the coast. From documents found on the bodies,
an interpretor from the 172nd Military Intelligence
Detachment was able to determine the exact time and
location of a local VC cadre meeting scheduled for that
Hawk teams from Bravo and Charlie Companies of the
2nd Battalion and an RF/PF squad were airlifted near
the village meeting place and 24 Viet Cong were killed in
the ensuing firefight.
Meanwhile the 4th Battalion, which had moved back
to AO Wainwright at the end of January, began a massive
cordon and search operation with elements of the Republic
of Korea Capitol Division. The biggest day of the opera-
tion came on the 4th when the allies killed 21 enemy in
several separate clashes. Fifteen more were killed by
artillery on the same day.
Still with Task Force South, the 3d Battalion had a
successful month, killing 67 enemy in a battle near the
III Corps border and uncovering a large cache. Found
by Alpha Company, it included 196 B-40 rockets, ninety
82mm mortar rounds, ninety-three 60mm mortar rounds,
plastic explosives, and numerous other rocket and small
in the 173d, said one paratrooper,
you're either on an operation, conning
back from one, or getting ready for another . . .
^^» 1W^^ *
an operation usually begins with a heliborne assault . . .
then most of the time is spent humping and searching
for the enemy . . . when he is found, there is a Firefight
then more humping and more searching . . .
it has been said that in Vietnam, there is the infantry
and then there is everyone else . . . but the infantryman
is grateful that everyone else is there . . . including
artillery, mortars, armor and especially, the dustoff . . .
and the people
there are the old people who look as though
they had seen the birth of Vietnam's 2,000-year
old civilization . . . gnarled and bent, they can
remember when there was no war . . .
but with patience and wisdom acquired
through the years, they look forward toward a
better time . . .
. . . and there are the young who have known
war all their lives . . . they have seen death
and destruction . . . but rather than being
weakened, they have been strengthened . . .
with knowledge and experience beyond
their years, they form the basis for a struggling
nation's bright future . . .
they have been plagued by war for almost thirty
years . . . and for a much longer period have they
endured hunger, poverty, ignorance and disease . . .
but both young and old have the will to work and
fight as long as necessary to
gain the peace and freedom
which they seek . . .
The great majority of the Brigade's operations are
reconnaissance-in-force missions. The infantry must find
the enemy, then destroy him, his equipment and his base-
But finding the enemy when he does not want to be
found is not easy. Therefore the 173d has come to rely
a great deal on an extensive intelligence network to locate
the elusive enemy.
"Snoopy" (chemical device which "smells" human
odors) readings, visual reconnaissance helicopter missions,
aerial photography, long range patrol reports, Red Haze
(detects heat from enemy camp fires) readings. . .they all
contribute to the intelligence reports which have been
extremely accurate in uncovering enemy activities and
But when the paratroopers enter these areas, the enemy
often flees after light contact, leaving caches of rice and
equipment behind. The infantrymen have no choice but to
follow, for that is their job — to close with and destroy the
The infantry spends many months at a time in the field,
but only a small portion of it is in actual combat. Most of
the time is spent '"humping" enormous rucksacks up and
down the thickly jungled mountains and muddy rice
paddies, searching lor "Charlie".
But the paratrooper accepts his way of life and seeks
ways of making it more comfortable, despite the heat and
dust, rain and mud, mosquitoes and leeches which plague
\\ hen the enemy doe- stand and fight, he usually chooses
the time and place. But the infantrymen are always ready
to react with teamwork, discipline and courage. Artillery
and air support are usually called in, hut in the end. it is
the infantry which is the ultimate weapon.
cordon and search
In the heavily populated lowlands - of Binh Dinh
Province, the Viet Cong have painstakingly built up and
maintained a complex political infrastructure in many
villages and hamlets.
The cordon and search mission is aimed at rooting out
and destroying this organization. It is initiated when an
infantry company seals off a village early in the morning
or the night before the search. Then the people of the
village are gathered together, questioned and have their
identification cards checked by National Police.
Young men of military age, persons without identifica-
tion and other suspects are detained and taken to rear
areas for further questioning. Villagers who are on the'
government side often reveal useful information on enemy
activity and locations.
The village is then searched carefully for surplus rice,
weapons, ammunition, equipment, tunnel complexes and
anything else indicative of the enemy's presence. Armored
vehicles are often placed in blocking positions as small
Viet Cong units and cadre hiding in the village will attempt
to escape at the approach of allied troops.
Armed Propaganda Teams, composed ol Vietnamese
civilian interpreters, often accompany these missions to
explain to the people just what the Saigon government is
trying to accomplish. In addition, many MEDCAP's are
held during these missions, to show the people that Ameri-
cans are trying to help them.
The success of the cordon and search mission, combined
with the low cost in Allied lives, has proven very effective
in helping to win the war.
Keeping Highways 1 and 19 in Operations Dan Sinh
and Walker secure and open to traffic has been one of the
Brigade's foremost objectives during the past year.
The first part of this objective has been accomplished by
the infantry who have kept the enemy main-force units on
the run and away from the highway. Then cavalry and
armored units finish the job by patrolling the roads, escort-
ing convoys, manning check points and bridges and acting
as reaction forces ready to cope with any trouble on the
Engineers also conduct daily, early-morning, mine
sweeps of the road to remove mines and booby traps before
the day's traffic begins.
The success of these missions is shown by the fact that
Highways 1 and 19 have never been closed to traffic as
a result of enemy action for more than 30 minutes.
■ I -
The nature of the Vietnam war — a guerrilla action
against an elusive enemy often in untenable terrain — has
made the helicopter an indispensable factor in almost
every type of mission.
The heliborne assault has proved to the quickest, easiest
and often the only way to move troops from one point to
another in the mountains and jungles of Vietnam. In one
massive, well-coordinated movement, an entire infantry
battalion can be transported to an objective area in less
than an hour.
The scene is a familiar one. Waiting for the combat
assault or "CA", heavily laden paratroopers lounge
patiently in groups of five or six on the PZ (pick-up zone).
The UH-1D "Huey-slicks" land on the PZ for a few
seconds, the infantrymen board quickly and the slicks take
The slicks circle over the LZ (landing zone) while the
area is reconned by observation choppers and heavily-
armed gunships. Then as the slicks touch down, the para-
troopers leap off and race for cover. Sometimes the LZ is
"hot" and a firefight begins. More often it is not and the
infantrymen set out to look for the enemy on foot until
the next CA. It may come in a few hours or a few days,
but it will come.
The movement of an artillery fire support base is
another example of helicopter mobility. Soon after an
infantry company has CA'd in to secure the new location,
the advance artillery party arrives and begins directing in
Chinook helicopters sling-loaded with howitzers, ammuni-
tion and other equipment and supplies.
Within minutes, the guns have been set up, sighted in
and are ready to fire a mission. Within a few hours, the
tactical operations center is functioning, communications
have been set up, bunkers have been dug and the fire sup-
port base is functioning as smoothly as before.
The helicopter is also used in dust off, Snoopy, visual
reconnaissance, psychological operations, and defoliation
missions. Without a doubt, the helicopter has become the
versatile workhorse of the Vietnam war.
• t \ rf
The war in Vietnam has had its big battles, but most of
the action comes in company-size or smaller contacts
known as firefights.
The firefight, which can flare at anytime during the day
or night, usually comes when least expected. At least it
seems that way to most infantrymen.
One minute he's taking a break, humping up a hill or
crossing a rice paddy, and the next his world explodes
into a cacophony of noises which assaults his senses and
makes him react immediately.
The veteran and the "new guy" both hit the ground, but
the veteran knows what else to do. He gets off the trail or
takes cover behind a paddy dike, shrugs out of his ruck-
sack and begins to return fire. He cannot see the enemy,
but he knows fire superiority must be gained as soon as
The new guy may not do this at first, but he learns
quickly. His squad leader or platoon sergeant sees to that.
Besides, he has to; its his job.
Meanwhile the FO (Forward Observer) is on the radio
calling in coordinates to the artillery. If the enemy decides
to remain and fight from fortified positions, the company
will pull back and let the "Redlegs" soften up the area
before assaulting. If the enemy flees, artillery will be
called in to block their route while the infantry pursues.
If there's to be an assault, the point platoon will move
on line and start moving forward toward the unseen enemy.
Firing their M-60's and M-16's from the hip, most shout
words of encouragement to their buddies and chant in
unison. Some remain silent and just move forward with
It may be an easy objective and last only minutes. But
it may be a difficult one and last hours. Snipers in trees
and well-fortified, automatic weapons positions make
In almost every firefight, someone has to become a hero.
Someone endangers himself to knock out a machine gun
or silence a sniper, crawl under fire to bring needed sup-
plies or rescue a wounded man. But as they say, it's no
big thing, it happens all the time.
The firefight will be remembered as they all are. It gives
them something to talk about until the next one.
The miracle of the dust off, or medical evacuation, is
one of the main factors contributing to the high morale of
combat troops in Vietnam. The United States has always
provided its fighting men with the best medical care in the
world and today in Vietnam, it is the best ever. Almost
99 percent of the wounded evacuated from the battlefield
The first man who takes part in the miracle is the
combat medic, a unique breed of soldier who is continually
risking his life to save those of his comrades. There are
countless stories of the heroic deeds performed by these
men in the midst of heavy enemy fire. It is the combat
medic's job to keep the wounded alive until the dust off
Without a doubt, the dust off chopper is the main reason
why the death toll is so low. Within five minutes of the
time the unit in the field radios in, the helicopter is air-
borne and heading for the unit's location. The aircraft
commander usually knows how many wounded there are
and in what general condition they are in, so the crew
The company has usually located a suitable LZ, or if
none is available, it cuts one. Sometimes, however, the
jungle is too thick to cut an LZ, and a hoist known as a
jungle penetrator is used to extract the wounded.
A hot LZ is something which all dust off pilots dread,
but if it is at all possible to get onto the LZ, the pilot Will
do it. Once the unarmed ship is on the ground, the crew
wastes no time loading and securing the wounded, and the
ship is airborne again in minutes.
The medics on-board waste no time picking up where
the combat medic left off, and immediately began treating
and diagnosing the patients. This diagnosis is relayed
ahead to the hospital so a few more precious seconds can
The emergency room of the hospital swings into action
making preparations for the badly wounded soldier who
needs surgery. If the hospital does not have the facilities
to handle the case, he is immediately flown to another
hospital which can.
After sur.gery, the patient is sent to a ward for recovery
or prepared for further evacuation to Japan. After he is
fully recovered, he is returned to his unit or sent back to
the United States, depending on how much time he has left
soldiers of god
Wearing a cross on their helmets, packs on their backs,
and armed only with their faith, the chaplains can be
lound wherever the men of the Brigade are located.
The 173d's seven chaplains provide services daily and
are always available for personal problems and religious
matters. They are all airborne qualified and Vietnam
In the field, they make do with whatever they can find.
It is not unusual to see a moss-covered rock or a stack of
(1-ration boxes become an altar. Their services are simple,
but the combat soldier appreciates the quiet reassurance
which comes with this simplicity.
These "Soldiers of God" have often served under fire,
aiding the wounded both spiritually and physically and
are among the finest in the Armed Forces.
Mf . <W fc
There will always be disputes between the infantry and
the artillery as to wliich is best, but no infantryman can
deny that the "Redleg" is his best friend in a firefight.
Within minutes alter calling in a fire mission, an
infantry company can have rounds crashing in on enemy
positions from a fire support base miles away.
The process begins with the forward observer, an
artilleryman who stays with a line company for the sole
purpose of directing in fire support. The FO continuously
plots the company's location on his map, so when the fire
mission is needed, no time is wasted in calling in the
The information is received in the FDC (Fire Direction
Center) by the radioman who relays it to two chart opera-
tors. They both plot the coordinates on separate maps as
a double check against error, and give the range and
direction of the target to the chief computer.
He quickly computes the necessary angle and direction
for the gun crews and type fuse and size of the charge
for the rounds. A smoke marking round is fired first,
adjusted and then high explosive shells are sent on their
way to pulverize the enemy less than five minutes after the
fire mission began.
The Brigade receives its direct artillery support from
the 105mm howitzers of the 3d Battalion, 319th Artillery.
But many 155mm, 175mm and 8 inch guns from batteries
under I Field Force have also fired extremely effective
missions for the 173d paratroopers.
In addition to artillery, the infantry commander also
has at his disposal 81mm and 4.2-inch mortars for quick
and effective fire support.
Known as the company commander's "hip-pocket artil-
lery," the 81's can be humped by the mortarmen with the
line companies, besides being used to provide close-in
protection at fire support bases.
The "four-deuce" tubes of each line battalion can be
used to supplement the howitzers of a fire support base
or can be set up in a "mini-base" of their own to provide
firepower for isolated infantry companies.
Fire missions for mortars are similar to those of the
artillery, and are called in by the 81 and "four-deuce"
forward observers who stay with the line companies.
Since the move to the coast, the 173d has been able to
take advantage of the firepower offered by American war-
ships from the South China Sea. They range from destroy-
ers to the mammoth New Jersey, the only battle ship on
active duty in the world.
Available for approximately 20 days out of each month,
the naval fire missions are coordinated through the naval
gunfire liaison officer attached to the Brigade. Working
with the Brigade FSCC (Fire Support Coordinating
Center) in selecting targets, he adjusts the fire from
Hawkeye aircraft or sends one of his Marine personnel
out with a ground unit to do the job.
The ships usually fire nightly harassment and inter-
diction missions, and during the day concentrate on
enemy bunkers and basecamps which have been predeter-
mined as suitable targets. The naval gunners can also fire
immediate reaction missions when ground forces catch
the enemy out in the open.
'<t v.*. ca
The aerial fire support available to the Brigade encom-
passes everything from giant Air Force B-52 bombers to
A welcome sight frequently seen by paratroopers is a
small, seemingly defenseless single-engined plane piloted
by an Air Force FAC (forward air controller). Armed
only with smoke marking rounds, the FAC nevertheless
manages to bring death and destruction on the enemy by
directing the air strikes from jet fighters.
Attached to the Brigade, the courageous pilots meet the
planes from fighter bases at Phu Cat, Cam Ranh Bay, and
Tuy Hoa, over the target. There they direct and correct
the bombing runs and assess the damage to determine if
more air strikes are needed.
Spooky gunships, or C-47 planes armed with six mini-
guns, can bring devastating fire power on enemy positions
at any time of the day or night. Viewed in the evening,
the fiery column of solid metal is a beautiful sight to the
infantryman and the deafening roar is music to his ears.
With less firepower but greater mobility, the Army's
helicopter gunships are most effective when close-in sup-
port is needed by ground units. The older Huey gunships
and the new sleek Cobras carry 2.75 inch rockets and
either two miniguns or a 40mm grenade launcher.
In addition, the extremely fast and maneuverable recon-
naissance Loaches or Light Observation Helicopters put
their one minigun to good use when they catch the enemy
in the open.
m • — * • «■
On an average of every three days, each rifle company
in the Brigade compiles a resupply list known as a "log"
or "firefly" and radios it in to the battalion rear area.
The list contains all the food, clothing, equipment,
ammunition and medical supplies the company will need
in the next three days. The men tell their squad leaders,
who in turn inform the platoon sergeants, who pass it on
to the man in the CP who runs the log. The next day the
resupply chopper brings everything that was ordered along
with mail and maybe a hot meal.
The log is taken for granted by infantrymen, but it is
the result of long hours and hard work by the Brigade's
support troops. The process begins at the depots at Qui
Nhon where paratroopers of Charlie Company (S & S)
load their trucks with the supplies and then transport them
to the Brigade Supply Office in An Khe where they are
accounted for and categorized.
Then they are trucked to supply yards at the forward
areas maintained by the Brigade Support Operations
Center (BSOC). Unit S-4's requisition their needs from
BSOC and arrange to have them transported to the LOC
(Logistical Operations Center) in the battalion trains area.
Each line company usually has a representative working
at the LOC who is responsible for receiving the log from
the company and insuring that everything is delivered on
the other war
The main reason American troops are in Vietnam is to
defeat the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese regulars,
but they are also waging another war. This secondary, but
equally important war is being fought against ■ pain,
disease, poverty and ignorance.
Termed Civic Action and supervised by the Brigade S-5
Office, its goal is not merely to help the Vietnamese people
but to help them help themselves. The idea is for the
people to do the work, while Americans supply the mate-
rial and technical advice. The reasoning is that the people
will appreciate much more something they have built
One of the most successful projects sponsored by the
Brigade is the Bong Son Health Workers School and
Dispensary, which trains local villagers in medical skills
and techniques. Once the monthly class graduates, they go
back to treat the people in their own villages and hamlets.
Another major project was the rebuilding of the market
place road in Bong Son, which had been a quagmire of
mud and garbage. Through the efforts of the local popula-
tion and 173d Engineers, business soared along the street
when the project was completed.
Units of the Brigade have also adopted schools, orphan-
ages, and other institutions, providing them assistance on
a more or less permanent basis. The 2nd Battalion sup-
ports a Buddhist orphanage; the 3d Battalion, an agricul-
tural college; the 3/319th Artillery, a Catholic refugee
camp; the Support Battalion, a Catholic school and
orphanage; and the l/503d Infantry and the l/50th
Infantry, each a village.
In addition, the Brigade conducts MEDCAP's on a
regular basis, donates food, soap and clothing to refugee
camps, and distributes captured enemy rice to indigent
A peaceful means of waging war, the psychological
operations program of the Brigade is managed by the S-5
Office. Using words both on paper and on tape, it is de-
signed to undermine the morale of the enemy and inform
both the people and enemy of the government's long range
Most of the psyops effort is devoted to the "Chieu Hoi"
(Open Arms) program, which attempt to get enemy
soldiers to rally to the Saigon government. Former "Hoi
Chanhs," those who have surrendered under the program,
aid in recording tapes and designing leaflets, to lend
credibility to the messages.
The tapes, which are played from a helicopter, and the
leaflets, usually dropped from Air Force planes, emphasize
the hardships the enemy is enduring and remind him of
the constant danger of death from American firepower.
They also inform him that he will not be harmed and will
be free to do whatever he wishes after surrendering.
Many Hoi Chanhs become Kit Carson Scouts, who act
as point men for the infantry companies of the Brigade.
They have been very highly praised for their loyalty and
success at detecting enemy booby-traps and ambushes.
In addition, psyops missions are often conducted in
connection with civic action projects. By use of posters,
movies, tapes, and talks by Armed Propaganda Teams,
they explain what the government is accomplishing and
try to discover the needs of the people.
— - -
t Mii''^ *
he can be many things — an infantryman, a lurp, a medic
rushing to save a buddy's life . . . most often he is young
in years, but during his tour in Vietnam, he gains a
certain maturity which cannot be taught elsewhere . . .
he also gains pride in himself and his unit . . . during his
days in jungle school, on his first operation and especially
in combat, this pride enables him to endure hardships
stoically, Tight harder and drive on where others might
quit . . . because he knows that he is the best . . .
he rests whenever and wherever he can .
it might be just a few minutes' pause
during an operation ... or a three-day
standown in the rear where he might see
a USO show or meet touring celebrities .
if he was lucky, he journeyed to phu cat
on christmas day during the truce and
heard ann-margaret sing white christmas
at the the bob hope show . . .
it reminded him of
what he was fighting for . .
he is an individual with his own strengths and weaknesses,
hopes and fears, desires and ambitions . . .
but success on the battlefield requires teamwork ... so he
learns to function as part of a team ... but he still retains
his unique individuality ...
he has many faiths . . . they are not always manifested openly, but they are there
one of his favorite sayings poses the question — how ya gonna act . . . and he is
concerned about how he reacts to the world he is a part of . . .
much of his time must be spent waiting ... for a helicopter or a plane . . .
huddled under a poncho or resting on his rucksack . . . but he waits patiently
because he knows that
et brings him a